• Texas after Penn State's Anthony Fera [Updated August 2]

    [Update, 10:10 a.m.: Fera has been removed from the online Penn State football roster]

     

    It looks like Anthony Fera is about to become a Longhorn.

     

    Fera's name no longer appears on Penn State's online roster, which would suggest he's finalized the decision many have been expecting the last week or so. (Hookem.com reported as much on Wednesday night).

     

    The next step would be confirmation, by way of statement, from the UT Athletics department.

     

    [From July 31]: Southern California today confirmed Penn State expat Silas Redd would be joining its football team. Under guidelines set up by the NCAA, any current or incoming Penn State player has been granted to transfer to any other school -- even within the Big Ten conference -- and be immediately eligible.


    So, is Anthony Fera next?


    Fera -- a Cypress, Texas, native whose two sisters graduated from UT -- visited Austin this Sunday and reportedly came away with a scholarship offer in hand, per Hookem.com (Texas is one under the 85-scholarship limit after Paden Kelley's decision to quit the team).


    We reached out to the all-conference punter, who was also 14-of-17 on field goal attempts, but the family is understandably mum right now as Fera contemplates all of this. He's scheduled to graduate in the fall, so a transfer of credits would have to be worked out, and Fera would of course want to be put on a similar program.


    Per Ben Jones of StateCollege.com, Fera was in attendance of a "Rise and Rally" event in State College this morning, put on to support the Penn State players remaining with the program despite the sanctions levied by the NCAA -- a four-year postseason ban and loss of scholarships most directly effecting the current players. It's not too surprising for Fera to be in State College until he's come to a decision, though that'd have to happen rather soon as the Longhorns report for fall camp August 5.


    Texas is in need of a proven kicker after Justin Tucker graduated. Under scholarship are placekickers Will Russ and Nick Jordan. Ben Pruitt and Nick Rose, two walk-ons, are vying for the job as well, and Alex King, a transfer from Duke, could be the frontrunner at punter.


    Russ has a big leg, but struggled in spring practices. And Jordan could very well be the Longhorns kicker of the future, but he's only 18. Clearly, the coaching staff doesn't have a large amount of confidence in either of these players if they're looking to add Fera, a fourth-year junior.


    After all, head coach Mack Brown did rhetorically ask the following in June:


    "Who is your punter? Who is the guy to step up and make [the big kick] that we'll have at some point next year? Who kicks off? Who will do it?"


    Texas is hoping "Fera" is the answer to it all.  

  • Ash suffers hamstring strain, is day to day [Updated]

    David Ash suffered a hamstring strain during practice Friday, The Daily Texan confirmed.


    A source close to Ash declined to give specifics about the severity of the injury, but a UT spokesman told the Texan Ash is "day to day."

     

    Hamstring strains -- when the three muscles along the back of the leg are stretched too far -- tend to be tricky, but the day-to-day prognosis is usually reserved for injuries not expected to linger longer than seven days. A third source reiterated Saturday morning that Ash's injury did not appear to be anything serious that could cause him to miss much or any of Texas' official team practices (the team reports Aug. 5). 

     

    Ash started six games as a true freshman, compiling a 3-3 record while throwing for 1,074 yards, four touchdowns and eight interceptions. He was projected to open the season as the starter, though head coach Mack Brown said earlier this week he and junior Case McCoy were still competing for the spot.  

  • Iowa excited about its new offensive coordinator

    CHICAGO -- For my summer internship in the Windy City, I was given the chance to cover the Big Ten media days Thursday and Friday at the Hyatt Regency downtown.


    The overwhelming majority of attention was, of course, directed towards the Penn State scandal. However, when it got down to the subject at hand -- football -- I saw a conference looking forward to the future, with talented young teams ready to emerge.


    One team with upside, the Iowa Hawkeyes, made some changes this offseason -- most notably for Texas fans, hiring former offensive coordinator Greg Davis. I sat down with head coach Kirk Ferentz and senior quarterback James Vandenberg to discuss their new play-caller.


    Vandenberg, a second-year starter, knows how well Davis has adjusted his offense to particular skill sets in the past.

     

    “He handed it to Ricky Williams forty times, ran the zone read with Vince Young, and threw it almost every play with Colt McCoy," said Vandenberg, who threw for 3,022 yards and 25 touchdowns as a junior. "He knows a lot."

     

    Vandenberg is also impressed with Davis' fire.

     

    “[I've noticed] how excited he gets, he’ll run all the way down the field after a big play in practice.”


    Ferentz, coming into his fourteenth season at the helm of the Iowa program, had no doubt about hiring Davis after he took a year off. With references from Miami Dolphins head coach, Joe Philbin and former Indianapolis head coach, Jim Caldwell, Ferentz heard nothing but great things about the 61-year-old Davis and the respect he has garnered around the coaching landscape.


    One of the big criticisms of Davis at Texas was being a buttoned-down play caller at times, and not utilizing the immense talent available, which just so happens to be the same criticisms directed towards Ken O’Keefe, the longtime Iowa offensive coordinator who resigned in February to take the wide receivers coaching job with the Dolphins.

     

    Ferentz isn't having any of that, or the unfair fact that offensive coordinators scapegoats for a struggling football team.

     

    “The offensive coordinator position has become a lightning rod in football, and Greg knows that it comes with the territory,” Ferentz said. "If you look at Greg’s statistics, it’s almost laughable to question his coaching ability. If Vince Lombardi were alive today and was an offensive coordinator, he’d be getting ripped on Sundays the first time his team lost.”


    It goes without question that Davis was and still is a remarkable coach with incredible ability to develop quarterbacks and coach up to certain abilities. That touch might not have been so evident in 2010, his final year with the Longhorns, but as writer Robert Brault once said, “Time is a figure eight, at its center the city of Déjà vu.”
     

  • Best case scenario

    Case McCoy's late-game heroics against Texas A&M helped Texas send their rivals off to the SEC with a bad taste in their mouths.
    Case McCoy's late-game heroics against Texas A&M helped Texas send their rivals off to the SEC with a bad taste in their mouths.

    Contrary to every statistical metric screaming, "No!", David Ash will open the season as the starting quarterback for the Longhorns.


    I get what coaches see in Ash. The big body. The arm. The surprising athleticism, the potential for him to improve markedly in his next three seasons. Ash has the kind of ceiling Case McCoy -- despite his bloodlines -- couldn't sniff.


    But can we stop pretending Ash was the better quarterback last season? Conventional stats say he wasn't. Intricate stats do, too. That's why I have no problem with Mack Brown opening up Tuesday's Media Days press conference insisting the starting quarterback spot is still up for grabs. I don't think he's telling the truth; but I really hope he is.


    McCoy started five games for Texas last season, going 3-2. His losses? No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 17 Baylor. He threw three touchdowns and four interceptions against the Bears, snapping the streak of 124 consecutive passes to begin his career without throwing a pick, a school record.


    The junior-to-be took Texas down the field in the final seconds against Texas A&M Thanksgiving night, giving Mack Brown one of the biggest wins of his career*

     

    *1) USC, 2006 2) Michigan, 2005 3) Nebraska, 1998 4) Ohio State, 2005 5) Texas A&M, 2011.


    That night alone, along with McCoy nearly taking Texas to a win against Kansas State in a game Ash was so miserable in, proves McCoy is the better big-game player.


    But the stats can paint that picture, too.


    Against AQ teams (BCS), McCoy was No. 38 in the nation with a 133.40 passer rating, right behind Landry Jones. Ash had a 105.80 rating.


    In the fourth quarter, McCoy completed 62 percent of his passes (34-for-55) with a touchdown, an interception and 17 first downs. Ash hardly completed half of his (24-for-45, or 55.6 percent) with an identical TD-INT ratio and 12 first downs gained.


    Their third-down splits are, well, split: McCoy completed 55.6 of his passes for four touchdowns, three interceptions (he only had four all year) and 20 first downs. Ash connected on 55.8 of his, threw a score and a pick, and gained 21 first downs.


    McCoy threw for two more touchdowns in the red zone than Ash did.


    Brown says his team needs a quarterback to provide "explosive plays" and "protect the ball better."


    Ash tossed eight interceptions -- 4.6 percent of his attempts. McCoy threw four -- 2.8 percent.


    Fumbles? Ash, four; McCoy, three.


    And if you're talking about explosive plays, or even the ability to gain yards on a consistent basis, it's not even close, according to the popular metric stat Adjusted Net Yards Per Attempt, or ANYPA.


    ANYPA takes into consideration a quarterback's passing attempts, passing yards, interceptions, touchdowns, sacks and yards lost via sack to illustrate how many yards a quarterback is worth on each passing play.


    Each time he dropped back to pass, McCoy was good for 6.43 yards. Ash? 4.81. To put that into context, COLT McCoy averaged 6.74 yards per attempt in 2009.


    So, again, who's the better candidate?

  • Nick Florence has experience filling in for RG3

    Before he even takes a snap as Robert Griffin III's successor, Baylor quarterback Nick Florence is "already a success story."


    "He was salutatorian in his class of 500, he's already married, already graduated," head coach Art Briles said Tuesday at Big 12 Media Days.


    Florence has actually been through this before. He played eight games in 2009 with RG3 out with a knee injury, completing 62 percent of his passes.


    Last season, RG3 was knocked out of a game against Texas Tech early with a concussion and Florence took over -- sacrificing a redshirt season -- to go 9-for-12 for 151 yards and a touchdown that helped clinch a win.

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